Q&A with Elizabeth Kirke, Semester Aboard

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Was a possible audiobook recording something you were conscious of while writing?

Never in a million years. When I originally wrote the book I was actually posting it, chapter by chapter, in the Original Works section of a fanfiction website! Back then, ebooks were hardly even a thing. Merely publishing Semester Aboard was a pipe dream and having an audiobook never even crossed my mind. I hardly even expected to be where I am now, with three (plus a short story collection) books in the series and three more on the way. Not to mention having Semester Aboard win an award for Best YA Paranormal!

How did you select your narrator?

Sheer luck! Starla and I were already Facebook friends thanks to the networking power of the author world. We actually sort-of worked together before, when she made a wand for me. (Actually, she made the top half of a wand to fit onto the bottom half of my existing one. The top broke off and I buried it with my beloved cat, but hated to have a broken wand just sitting around.) Anyway, I posted on Facebook asking my friends if they know any narrators and briefly described what I was looking for. Starla replied and sent a link to books she had already done. I knew she was the perfect fit right away, and the rest is history!

How closely did you work with your narrator before and during the recording process? Did you give them any pronunciation tips or special insight into the characters?

I gave Starla an absurdly detailed document with pronunciation, bios, and even descriptions and pictures. It was probably above and beyond what she needed, but since she brought it to life, it was worth it! We chatted back and forth a lot for the first couple of chapters, but after she had the characters down I just let her do her thing!

Were there any real life inspirations behind your writing?

Big yes! I was part of the Semester at Sea program back in college. I spent a summer on a cruise ship, operated (at the time) by the University of Virginia. I took college courses with UVA and visiting professors, while touring Latin America on the ship. I strongly encourage college students to do it! That experience inspired this book, in which the main character is a student in the same program. As she navigates magic and vampires, her voyage takes her to the same ports that I visited. While a lot more magic is thrown in, the characters do have many of the same experiences in different countries and on the ship that I did.

Is there a particular part of this story that you feel is more resonating in the audiobook performance than in the book format?

I think it all benefits from Starla’s amazing performance. That said, I’ve gotten some negative feedback in the past regarding how slow some of the portions in the ports go. As you just read, they were based on my real experiences, so I think I got a bit too wordy and nostalgic as I describe them. But, Starla brings them to life and you really feel the excitement through the main character’s eyes as she reads. I think it really picks up the dragging parts. She also adds a wonderful sense of urgency to the fight scenes!

If you had the power to time travel, would you use it? If yes, when and where would you go?

I would head straight to 1797 and visit George Washington. I worked for several years as a historical interpreter on his estate and would love to pop in and see it in its prime. Not to mention catch some time alone with the General to talk to him.

What do you say to those who view listening to audiobooks as “cheating” or as inferior to “real reading”?

People say that!? Ugh, people will complain about anything for the sake of taking enjoyment away from someone else. 100% disagree. First, there are numerous medical reasons to listen to audiobooks, and that alone should be worth something. Vision impairment, arthritis, dyslexia…The list goes on. Heck, even a nasty migraine that makes opening your eyes torture, but you can’t fall asleep. And who doesn’t want to read a book while stuck in traffic? Why not listen? And, most importantly: people enjoy them. That should be enough. We should be rallying against people who want to censor or limit access to books, not people making them more accessible.

What’s next for you?

Phew! The very next is Wrought-Iron Roses, the 2nd book in my paranormal romance series, The Curse Collectors. The first book opens with three sisters who inherit their aunt’s antique shop. Upon arrival, they discover that she was a rune-caster, and was in charge of breaking the curses cast upon all of the antiques in her shop. One of the sisters gets cursed, so they have to learn how to cast runes to save her.

After that, I’m working on the fourth (fifth if you count Danio’s Prelude) book in the More than Magic series! I’m also hoping to get the audio for the next one lined up.

Lastly, I’m working on the outline for a brand new series! This one is a paranormal cozy mystery series. I’m quite looking forward to writing it.

 

Q&A with Ryan Armstrong, Love and Hate

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Tell us about the process of turning your book into an audiobook.

Finding the right narrator and writing the novel was mostly all I did for this format of the book.  The credit for the audiobook rendition goes to the narrator: Christopher Sherwood. I had to give very little direction because he is a wonderful actor and trained in voice over work.  He has the talent and understood the novel - its themes and characters - this is what it took to make them all come alive from the page. He did that and I listened, enraptured by it all, awaiting each chapter he would upload as he made it come alive.

Do you believe certain types of writing translate better into audiobook format?

Yes, I believe that first person narratives are particularly compelling in audiobook format.  Love and Hate: In Nazi Germany is told in first person and I think that a narrator can many times become the character more authentically with a story told in this point of view.  I have been told by readers that my writing would make a good movie and that it is “cinematic.” I don’t think a great novel must be written in a cinematic style and in first person.  I do think that this style may lend itself to audiobook format well.

How did you select your narrator?

I have a cinematic novel trailer for Love and Hate, that is just like a movie trailer.  The quality level is similar to a movie trailer and real actors are involved.  You can watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oi47YG-eHeo

Chris (the narrator) was cast as Hans, the novel’s protagonist, in my cinematic book trailer.  My filmmaker and I thought he was perfect for the role. No others who auditioned compared.

I have this cork board nailed by my desk.  I use it to pin plot lines and pictures of the places I write about.  I also find pictures that resemble the characters that I am writing about.  I select ones that look like what I imagine them to look like in my head. It was a welcome and strange coincidence that Chris auditioned.  He literally was identical to the picture of Hans on my cork board. He was exactly the character in my head - and there he was in the flesh.  He did a great job with the German accent and his acting and look were perfect. He really was Hans to me - and now to hundreds and thousands of others.  When I found out he had voice over experience I HAD to ask him to do the audiobook. I was very excited when he agreed. He did not disappoint and made the book come alive.  If you watch the novel trailer you will get to see Chris and I think it makes listening to the book a little more fun.

In your opinion, what are the pros and cons of writing a stand-alone novel vs. writing a series?

There are more pros to writing a series when it comes to book sales.  Writing a series gives the reader an opportunity to continue reading a story that keeps evolving and the author then boasts more sales. I am not saying I won’t write a series someday.  But, I find it satisfying to tell a story fully and be done with it. I feel it gives me the time to concentrate on marketing and making the story into other formats, like a screenplay, a graphic novel and an audiobook (all of which are being done with this novel).  I want to mostly continue to write in this genre - historical fiction. But, I tend to like to move on to other stories once a story is told. I feel there can be danger in drawing out a story once it has been told. It can be, not always, but when not justified by the story - a series can turn out formulaic and boring.  However, when done well, a series can benefit the reader and novelist greatly.

What bits of advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Oh, I could write a book just on this.  I will say this - do not write a novel. Tell yourself that you won’t write one.  To produce a quality novel is so much work - and even when you sell well - it is so little money that it is usually not worth the trouble.  If you say, “to hell with that advice” because you want to write a novel that badly - then you should absolutely do it. But it must be a need and not a whim.  I guess that is my point.

Do you have any tips for authors going through the process of turning their books into audiobooks?

Find the right narrator.  Everything will fall into place if you do that.  If you just select a bad narrator or someone who is only half committed then your book won’t turn out well.  Once you find the right narrator let them run with it and only give absolutely needed directions. It is a collaboration.

What’s next for you?

I am currently working on an anthology - The Darkest Hour with nine other historical   fiction authors - best sellers due out in January.  You can check it out here: https://thedarkesthouranthology.com/

The title of my novella within the anthology is Sound of Resistance, and delves deeper into the psyche of Erich Beck - the most evil character in “Love and Hate.”

Guest Post, Becki Willis, The Lilac Code

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The setting for this book, The Columbia Inn at Peralynna, is quite real, and used with the permission of its owners, David and Dr. Cynthia Lynn.

My husband and I first discovered this intriguing boutique bed and breakfast in September. We were charmed by the unique layout and, particularly, by our warm and gracious hosts. We returned again in February, when the Lynns graciously showed us around their home and their community. (Royal Taj Restaurant, The Iron Bridge Wine Company, and the old Savage Mills cotton mill complex are also real places.) Cynthia and I spent many hours in the four story great room, discussing our mutual love for books and writing, and brainstorming future plots.

The inn has a fascinating story behind it. It is, indeed, fashioned after a CIA safe house in Germany that Cynthia thought of as her family’s vacation home. She told me she simply thought their parents threw a lot of parties and took their five children on spur-of-the-moment trips, often in the still of night. It was years before she realized her parents were spies and that those clandestine encounters were related to national security. In fact, the American pilot Francis Gary Powers (you probably remember the name from the blockbuster movie Bridge of Spies) was debriefed at the safe house her father.

During my last visit, I had the pleasure of listening to Cynthia and her sister Dot recall memories of the house, their parents, and their unique lifestyle abroad. Oh, the books these women could write! The character of CIA Agent Logan McKee is, in fact, Cynthia’s creation and will be the main character in a fiction series—non-classified, of course—that she plans to pen in the very near future.

I hope you enjoyed this book and the glimpse shared into The Columbia Inn at Peralynna. The next time you’re in the Baltimore/Columbia/DC area, you owe it to yourself to meet the Lynns and to stay in their beautiful home. Be sure and tell them I sent you. (And don’t forget to look for those secret staircases!)

By the way, Boonsboro, Maryland is only an hour away, where you can visit Turn the Page bookstore and the Boonsboro Inn, both owned by author Nora Roberts.  

Until next time,

Becki

My Inspiration by The Princely Papers by Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar

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I was in college when Princess Diana died in her fatal car crash. At the time I didn’t understand why my friend was so upset – she called me that morning and woke me up to tell me – but over the years I’ve come to understand what a complicated legacy she had and also what an amazing impact she had on so many different areas; fashion, charity, media, motherhood, etc. 
 
The idea for this book was always a whim, something lurking in the back of my brain for years as a ‘fun’ project I might never get to. And then as I got caught up with my writing goals, Diana’s boys, as the princes are known, were getting older and making big choices, like getting married, etc. and the idea for the book came back. 
 
The Princely Papers is more the story of a mother like Diana and two children, a girl, Victoria, and a boy, Albert, who inherit both their mother and father’s issues (and throne!). I hope readers will enjoy this imagining of what it’s like to a royal. 
 
It would be really fun to see this made into a film or television series, like The Crown; I could see James McAvoy playing Albert and maybe Jessica Chastain as Victoria. Their mother would be much harder to cast…. Maybe Uma Thurman or someone with a theater background.
 
 
 
 

Q&A with Rachel Amphlett, Gone to Ground

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Tell us about the process of turning your book into an audiobook.

The process started out relatively simple. I just went onto ACX and listed the book book as being open for audition. Within a few weeks, the auditions started coming in. After that was when the real work began.

Was a possible audiobook recording something you were conscious of while writing?

I never considered turning Heart of Stone into an audiobook initially, but then I had readers asking for it.

How did you select your narrator?

I listened to the auditions and then I got in touch with Lacy. I had no idea how to go about the process, but Lacy was very forthcoming right from the get go. We got along immediately, which made it easy for me to choose her. Lacy is the one who suggested that we bring in a male narrator for the part of Alexander. She got in touch with a few for auditions, and I ended up choosing Jeffrey.

How closely did you work with your narrator before and during the recording process? Did you give them any pronunciation tips or special insight into the characters?

I worked very closely with Lacy for this book. After every recorded chapter, I would give feedback on moods, emotions, character personalities, etc. In fact, I think I might have driven her crazy with the amount of feedback I gave her, but she denies it :)

Were there any real life inspirations behind your writing?

A little bit, but not much. For example, the guitar player that Alexander discovered in Venice is based on a real life experience. My husband and I stumbled upon this guitarist in Venice, Italy and fell in love with his music. La Biga is also a real place. It’s a little cafe across the street from the Colosseum in Rome.

Are you an audiobook listener? What about the audiobook format appeals to you?

Other than Heart of Stone, I have never once listened to an audiobook. I should probably start...

Is there a particular part of this story that you feel is more resonating in the audiobook performance than in the book format?

I think Lacy did a fantastic job with Krystina’s backstory. It was such an emotional chapter and I feel that her performance really shined in that part.

If this title were being made into a TV series or movie, who would you cast to play the  primary roles?

I did have two celebrities in mind when I was describing the character's appearance, although they were not my intention when I started out. It just sort of happened that way. For Krystina, I pictured Lacey Chabert with curly brown hair. I envisioned Ian Somerhalder for Alexander. As for how they would act out the roles, I didn’t think that far ahead.

What do you say to those who view listening to audiobooks as “cheating” or as inferior to “real reading”?

I don’t think it’s cheating. I think we live in a busy world. Finding time to sit down and read can be a challenge for some who love a great story. Listening to an audiobook is just another outlet for readers to get lost in the pages.

How did you celebrate after finishing this novel?

When I finished writing it, I didn’t celebrate. I panicked because I knew I would have to hit the “publish” button on Amazon. For the audiobook, I was more of a veteran by that point. I held a full blown party on Facebook for the audiobook release and held massive giveaways for the occasion. Then I poured a large glass of wine :)

In your opinion, what are the pros and cons of writing a stand-alone novel vs. writing a series?

Oh, where to begin… Heart of Stone is book one in a trilogy. The second book has been released, but I’m still writing the third. Readers are constantly asking for a release date for book three - the pressure is real! It’s made me rethink my ideas on tackling another trilogy in the future. Sometimes I feel like one-and-done is the way to go. However, I love reading trilogies, so we’ll see.

What bits of advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Never give up. It’s hard work, but determination is key. I once read somewhere that 97% of writers don’t finish their book. I don’t know how true that is, but if that number is accurate, it makes me sad to think about all the great unfinished stories out there. Strive to be among the 3% of writers to become a published author.

Do you have any tips for authors going through the process of turning their books into audiobooks?

I recommend ACX for first timers. I also recommend establishing a good rapport with your narrator(s), as I think it helps with getting an accurate performance of the character personalities.

What’s next for you?

Set in Stone, book three in The Stone Series. I’ve had so much going on with the first two books, that I’m a little behind schedule with that book.

Q&A with Jennifer S Alderson, Adventures of Zelda Richardson

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Do you believe certain types of writing translate better into audiobook format?

I don’t know about better, but I do believe mysteries work well as audiobooks. Listening to my own reminded me of old radio shows, when every episode ended as a cliffhanger meant to keep readers and listeners engaged so they keep reading or listening to my story.

How did you select your narrator?

Two of my novels have been recorded as audiobooks. Carol Purdom was one of several narrators who auditioned for The Lover’s Portrait. I believe her calm, soothing voice is the perfect choice for this dual timeline mystery about Nazi looted artwork. Rituals of the Dead is a faster-paced adventure thriller and demanded a different kind of reading. I had received a few auditions but they didn’t seem right. I found Chelsea Stephens through ACX and asked her to audition. Her narration had the energy I was looking for and she did a great job of keeping the story moving forward at a high tempo, as the printed book does.

How closely did you work with your narrator before and during the recording process?

I worked closely with Carol Purdom during the entire production process of The Lover’s Portrait. She would send me raw files every week so I could check the many foreign words, as well as make any suggestions regarding her accents. I would comment on the files and – if needed – she would make any changes before moving forward. Once she was finished, they were edited and uploaded to ACX. That was the first time I listened to the entire book in one go.

Chelsea Stephens recorded all of the words on our ‘difficult to pronounce’ list and sent them to me for approval before starting to narrate Rituals of the Dead. I did not hear any of the chapters until the entire audiobook was recorded and edited. To be honest, whenever Chelsea would send over a progress report, it was extremely difficult not to ask her to send a chapter over! Those may have been a nerve-wracking few weeks, but her performance was so good, my nervousness dissipated as soon as I started listening to the final product.

Did you give them any pronunciation tips or special insight into the characters?

Both narrators asked for detailed character sketches and pronunciation tips. Considering the large amount of foreign words, character and place names mentioned in both books, that’s not surprising! I also recorded videos of myself pronouncing the Dutch words and sent them to both narrators. That was tremendously useful for all of us.

Were there any real life inspirations behind your writing?

All of my books are directly inspired by past travels, my background in journalism and ICT, as well as my strong interest in culture and art. After a short career as journalist and computer geek in Seattle, Washington, I spent several years exploring countries in Oceania, Central America and Asia. After living in Darwin, Australia for almost two years while studying cultural anthropology and aboriginal art, I moved to Amsterdam, the Netherlands to study European art history. During my studies and journeys, I have come across so many incredible and intriguing stories that I could write a hundred art-related travel mysteries and not have to repeat myself.

The Lover’s Portrait is a suspenseful “whodunit?” about Nazi-looted artwork that transports readers to wartime and present-day Amsterdam. To write it, I used my own experiences as a collection researcher and exhibition assistant at several Dutch museums as a starting point.

The Lover’s Portrait came to be because I was curious about Nazi-looted artwork and wondered what would happen if two people claimed the same painting. During many lectures at the University of Amsterdam, we spent a lot of time discussing restitution cases involving looted-art, especially paintings stolen by the Nazis during World War Two. I often wondered what would happen if two people claimed the same painting. This question became the central plot of my art mystery, The Lover’s Portrait. The rest of the stories and characters were inspired by archival research I’d conducted into this dark period of Dutch history.

My latest thriller, an adventure mystery set in Dutch New Guinea (Papua) and the Netherlands, was directly inspired by my work as a collection researcher for a fascinating exhibition of Asmat artwork, Bis Poles: Sculptures from the Rain Forest, held in the Tropenmuseum in Amsterdam. During the course of my work, I came across so many stories about head hunting raids, crazy anthropologists, hapless colonial administrators, and insanely brave missionaries that I knew I had the basis for a fascinating mystery about artifact smuggling in my hands!

All of the characters in the historical chapters of this novel are based on real explorers and their first-hand accounts of their experiences – the most famous of which was Michael Rockefeller. His movements are so well-documented it was easy to use Rockefeller’s general experiences as a starting point for Nick Mayfield, though my character is definitely not Rockefeller. Information I found about Reverend Zegwaard and several renowned Dutch explorers, such as Carel Groenevelt, also helped to shape the story and motivations of the characters.

Is there a particular part of this story that you feel is more resonating in the audiobook performance than in the book format?

In parts of both The Lover’s Portrait and Rituals of the Dead, the suspense seems to be more intense in the audio version than the print version. When listening to The Lover’s Portrait for the first time, I was happily surprised to hear how well my descriptions of Amsterdam work when read aloud. I had the same burst of joy when hearing how my descriptions of Dutch New Guinea (now Papua) sounded in Rituals of the Dead.

What do you say to those who view listening to audiobooks as “cheating” or as inferior to “real reading”?

If listening to an audiobook allows someone to ‘read’ a book they otherwise would not be able to (because of time, a medical condition, etc.) how can that be seen as inferior?

Since the release of my first audiobook, I have had listeners thank me for recording an audio version because they suffer from migraines or other physical ailments that prevent them from reading, are commuters who have no other free time to read so listen to books in their cars or on public transportation, and others who are too busy to sit and read for an hour so combine audiobooks with household chores. These are all readers who would not have discovered my work had I not created an audiobook of it. So no, I do not agree that listening to a book is cheating. If anything, making two of my novels available as audiobooks helps me reach a new target audience.

How did you celebrate after finishing this novel?

An extended happy dance then a delicious meal and fine wine. The day after is reserved for something fun I have been putting off because of writing – going on a long bike ride, a day at the spa, an extended lunch with a friend, visiting a museum exhibition, that kind of thing. After that, it’s business as usual. My son still needs to be brought to school, marketing plans need to be created, and my other books still need promoting.

In your opinion, what are the pros and cons of writing a stand-alone novel vs. writing a series?

Technically the books in my Adventures of Zelda Richardson series can be read in any order as stand-alone novels. They are a series only because they follow my protagonist, Zelda Richardson, on her travels around the globe. As an author, I enjoy having at least one reoccurring character to start my story with, because it gives me a sense of familiarity. I know Zelda well, and what she would and would not do. Readers also get to know her better and watch her grow as the novels progress. Luckily those who have read the series like her and enjoyed seeing the direction she heads. Yet, having Zelda surrounded by a shifting cast of characters enables me to explore new personalities and keeps the story fresh. I am afraid I would get bored if the cast stayed the same in every book. That is also why I try and set each novel in a different location. It allows me to indulge my wanderlust by researching a new setting and ensures I do not rehash old descriptions of the same places in each story.

 

What’s next for you?

I am currently outlining the chapters of mystery number four in the Adventures of Zelda Richardson series – another art-related tale about thefts and forgeries. The spectacular theft of two Vincent van Gogh paintings from the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam – and their equally remarkable return – inspired the plot. Researching the novel, knowing it could still go in any direction, is always an exciting place to be in the writing process. It will most likely be set in the Netherlands, Italy, Turkey, and possibly Croatia. I am looking forward to researching the locations first-hand!

What’s Your Writing Process? by Barb Hendee

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Normally, I avoid doing any type of “writerly” blog posts because for most people, they’re a good substitute for sleeping pills.

But . . . chatting about the human writing process is a little different. Nearly all of us write, whether it’s fiction, poetry, essays, letters, reports for work, etc. And everyone has a different process.

When I chose my major in college, people were shocked when I did not wish to go into teaching creative writing. Seriously. I’ve never taught a creative writing course. I did my master’s degree in composition theory, and I teach essay writing. The reason behind this is that I don’t have the first clue how to teach someone else to write fiction. It’s something that I “do,” but I don’t really understand it. I have a firm grasp of how to teach someone how to write an essay. I also spent years studying what goes on inside our minds as we attempt to write.  
 
When you hear the phrase “writing process,” it can mean several different things. For one, we all have a personal writing process—meaning in reference to the way our brains and habits function. There are perfect drafters, binge writers, over-planners . . . procrastinators, etc. The list goes on.

I’m a firm believer that deadlines play into this process. 
 
For example, my husband and writing partner, J.C. suffers from being a perfect drafter. He'll write a sentence and then stare at it. Something isn't quite right with that sentence. He'll change a few words--or maybe the order of the words--and then stare at the sentence again. Sometimes thirty minutes will go by, and he hasn't moved on to the next sentence. This is a stressful way to write, and these folks tend to start projects early if they are to meet a deadline.
 
Then there are procrastinators. These writers let the ideas churn and swirl inside their heads. They have been given two to three weeks to write a six-page project, and the ideas are still swirling twenty-four hours before the project is due, but not a word has been written. Ten hours before the project is due, they start drinking coffee like it's going out of style, and then they sit down and start hammering out words. They do get the project done, but they are often unhappy with it because it really needs to "cool" for a few days before quality revision can take place. But it's due and needs to be submitted.
 
Then, there are the over-planners. These writers love to do research and outlining. They will come up with a grand idea that excites them, and they will begin research. They also have two to three weeks for a project, but they spend most of that time doing research, taking notes, and outlining. They are having a fabulous time until they realize the project is due, and they haven't actually started writing yet.
 
I'm a "binge writer." I have a friend, another fiction writer named James Van Pelt, who is the complete opposite of me. He’s capable of getting up every day and writing three pages of a novel or story and then saving his work, closing the file, and going to work (he's also a teacher).
 
I am sooooooo jealous of him. I can't do that. With fiction, I have to become completely immersed (meaning “lost”) in a project. As a result, I only write fiction on breaks between college terms. But within a few days of starting a novel, I do nothing besides write from dawn to dark. This is a little hard J.C. because I'm also the cook in our house, and during those writing binges, we eat a lot of cereal, tuna sandwiches, and pizza.
 
But a few days into starting a novel, I'm getting up at 4:30 in the morning, making coffee, and pounding on keys. A Girl of White Winter is just over 80,000 words, and I wrote it in three and a half weeks. What’s more, I don’t remember writing it. I read it afterward, and I was very caught up in the story. It’s heart wrenching. Hah! But I don’t remember writing it.

This is not unusual. I’ve woken up to emails from students that read, “Barb, I finished the first draft of my essay last night at midnight. It’s on why Orca whales should not be kept in captivity. I got caught up in the topic, and I don’t remember writing it. But I just read it, and I think it’s pretty good. I’ve attached it here. Will you read it for me early and tell me what you think?”

I’m always glad to read projects early and give feedback, and I really understand what a student means when he or she says, “I don’t remember writing this.”
 
But the processes I list above are just several examples. What is your typical process? Think about this. Do you like your process? Or would you prefer to change it?

Q&A with Kathryn Guare, The Secret Chord

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Tell us about the process of turning your book into an audiobook and how you selected your narrator.

I used “ACX”, which is an audiobook platform offered by Amazon to match up authors with narrators. It’s great, because all the technical bits and bobs that I know nothing about are taken care of. All I had to do was upload a script for the auditions and agree on the contract with the narrator to get it all started, then upload an audiobook cover and description for the Audible and iTunes listings. There was a process for giving narrators an opportunity to audition, using the script I’d provided. I was beyond thrilled to have Wayne Farrell agree to take on the work. He’d narrated one of my all-time favorite books (“The Spinning Heart”) and I could hardly believe my luck! 

Are you an audiobook listener? What about the audiobook format appeals to you? What do you say to those who view listening to audiobooks as “cheating” or as inferior to “real reading”?

Yes, I love audiobooks. I once had a job with a 1-hour commute both ways and I went through dozens of audiobooks. I love having someone tell me a story. It can be captivating in a way that’s different from reading it on the page, and I don’t think it’s cheating at all. It’s just a different sort of experience, and I just read a news story that science suggests listening to a book is a more emotional experience than seeing a movie based on it!. There are so many books and so little time! I’m happy to use anything that helps me get through more of them and I always have a paperback and an audiobook going at the same time (Well, not at the same time, but you know what I mean!)
 
Do you believe certain types of writing translate better into audiobook format? 

I’m sure that’s true. Probably books that are strong on plot, action and dialogue work the best, but whatever the genre, the things I find tedious when reading a book are the same things I have trouble with when listening to one. If there is too much exhaustive description of setting, or facts and figures, and too little language that pulls me into the story or subject matter, I start to get impatient. But for me, the narrator is key more than genre. If I am enjoying the voice, and the storytelling skills of the person narrating, I can put up with almost anything else.

Was a possible audiobook recording something you were conscious of while writing?

I think I probably had a movie more in mind than the audiobook. Not because I really wanted to see the book made into a movie, but because I could see the movie in my head as I wrote it. Some readers have mentioned that the book feels “cinematic” and they can also easily picture a movie.  However, I recently read a news story that scientists believe an audiobook can be a more emotionally involving experience for a reader than seeing a movie based on the book!

If this title were being made into a TV series or movie, who would you cast to play the primary roles? 

Oh, I’ve had this conversation with so many readers and friends! He’s probably a little too old for the role now, but I’ve always said I’d be happy with Hugh Jackman as Conor. The role he played in the film “The Fountain” struck me as closest to the appearance and personality of Conor. And I think Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad) would do a great job as Sedgwick. And for Kate, hmmm, maybe Alexis Bledel?
 
How closely did you work with your narrator before and during the recording process? Did you give them any pronunciation tips or special insight into the characters? 

I did provide some brief descriptions of how I viewed the characters, but I thought it best to let the narrator develop his own approach, rather than asking him to adopt an accent or particular vocal style he may not be comfortable with. For me, it was most important that Conor McBride sound authentically Irish, which is why I was determined to have an Irish narrator. There were a few corrections when the UK/Irish pronunciation of a word slipped into an American character’s dialogue, but not often. Wayne has a remarkable range and facility with accents, and by the time I was listening to the chapters he’d already done his own editing and correcting. 
 
Were there any real life inspirations behind your writing? 

This book is mostly set in Vermont, and I am a native Vermonter, so there are a lot of settings drawn from my own experience. The setting for the Rembrandt Inn was inspired by my cousin’s gorgeous house in Greensboro, VT, which does overlook a gorge that has a brook running through it. My heritage is Irish, so the scenes in Ireland were also drawn from my experiences visiting the places on the Dingle Peninsula.

Is there a particular part of this story that you feel is more resonating in the audiobook performance than in the book format? 

Well, I have to admit that ever since I wrote the book, I was looking forward to having the romantic chemistry between Kate and Conor brought to life. I almost think hearing it in audio is better than the movie, because it is still the book the way I wrote it rather than an adaptation, and it was really a treat for me to hear!
 
What bits of advice would you give to aspiring authors?

The standard advice to writers is “write what you know” and I think that is very limiting and intimidating. My advice is “write what you want to know” because that opens up the world for you. Take the time to do the research to learn what you need to, then just go at it and don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t or shouldn’t do it.
 
Do you have any tips for authors going through the process of turning their books into audiobooks?

After you’ve found a narrator who has the voice and skill that you want, and you’ve given them some basic guidelines, you have to let it go and let them do the work. It’s like turning your screenplay over to the director and actors. If the narrator is focused on responding to your detailed direction it means they aren’t developing their own relationship with the story and the result will be less than it could have been.
 
What’s next for you?

I’m working on writing the fourth book in the series, and the audio version of the 3rd book, City Of A Thousand Spies is in production so it will be available on Audible and iTunes before too long. Stay tuned!

Q & A with Joanne Bischof, author of Sons of Blackbird Mountain

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With the novel set post-Civil War, what aspects of the war play a role in the novel?

In Sons of Blackbird Mountain, everyone has been effected by the war on some way. Several of the older characters fought in the war, while others are now freedmen and women who once were slaves. It’s this generation that raised children and even grandchildren, with their mindset, passions and outlook, so it’s greatly affected the younger generations, including the “sons” in the story—the Norgaard brothers. They lease land from a former slave holder and have a freedwoman living with them who helped raise them from boyhood. Because of this, there is much at stake still and while The War Between the States is a bygone era, the tensions and beliefs that clashed during that time, are still alive and active in the novel.

What was it like writing a Deaf character?

It was an immense challenge, but one I really enjoyed. I found it quite a process to write from Thor’s point-of-view. For me, it went much farther than simply writing a man who couldn’t hear sound, or who communicated through Sign Language. His lack of hearing became the very makeup of who he is, beginning from childhood and into manhood. It effects nearly everything about him to the way he is around others, to the way he walks, and even some of his skills that he’s honed due to his Deafness. Skills that those around him even lack. It was quite an adventure writing Thor’s character and I’m so thankful that readers have enjoyed that aspect of the story so much! 

Why is the word Deaf capitalized in the novel?

It’s my understanding that by capitalizing Deaf, it refers to someone who was born Deaf, while the lowercase deaf represents hearing loss. Because Thor was born Deaf, I decided to use this spelling throughout the novel as well as in my use of the word to pay homage to this. 

Do you have a favorite scene in the novel?

It’s so hard to choose so I’ll share one fun scene and one romantic one. The fun scene has to be the pie eating scene I the kitchen. Readers have harkened the story to having a “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” kind of feel and that one is probably one that harkens most to the aspect of a woman living aside men who don’t quite follow the rules of convention!

The romantic one would have to be the moment when Thor has gone through his great trial—one involving alcohol and his desire and hard work, to overcome it. Because of how challenging it was for him, and because of his lack of hearing, the scene when Aven kneels beside his bed and runs her finger against this knuckles as her first “hello” after a full week apart, always seems to bring a tear to my eye. It’s such a simple gesture but to both her and Thor, was so significant to the newness that had come due to his efforts of detoxing and that he was doing the hard work to ensure her safety. 

What might readers expect in the coming sequel, Daughters of Northern Shores?

There’s more to come for the Norgaard family and it’s been a joy to see readers so excited about this! People often ask me if Haakon, the youngest of the Norgaard men, is going to have his story told. While he wasn’t one of the main POV characters in Sons of Blackbird Mountain, he just about stole the show as far as the plot went…which is very fitting to his personality! The second novel will not only have the other characters involved, including Thor and Aven’s points-of-view again, but Haakon will be a steady thread throughout. To such a degree that my editor and I, as well as a few early readers, have come to know this book as Haakon’s story. He’s a headstrong man and has quite a complicated past, so it made this novel one of the most challenging – yet rewarding – that I’ve ever written.

Guest Post: Laura Emily, Embracing Your Divinity

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To understand ones self, one must understand the infinite power that surrounds our mind, body and spirit. There are many universal laws that surround us, the Law of Attraction being one of them. It is the most powerful law within our Universe and it tells us that like energy attracts like energy. Our Universe shall always match the frequency in which our energy is vibrating. When we know this we notice it. When we look around, we see it. Those who are speaking of their lack are always losing out. Those who are speaking of their prosperity are always receiving.

We may all look like unique beings on the outside, but we are all the same within. We are all souls, here to create in this physical realm, but that soul, our inner being, is still with us. It is always with us, it just gets ignored sometimes.

We may look like we group together in friendship circles based on our similar interests and hobbies, but we do not. We are grouped together because our energy matches those around us. We may see a group of people sat around a table, laughing and giggling, and we may even notice that they all enjoy similar material things like clothes, jewellery and make-up, but actually underneath all that they are vibrating at the same frequency, which therefore draws them together.  This is what is happening everywhere. It happens on a small and large scale.

The power that we have as a human race is phenomenal. We create everything as an individual and as a whole. We create the good and the not-so-good. We create the welcoming manifestations and the detrimental ones. We create the physical wealth and the physical disease. We create the emotional abundance and the emotional turmoil. We create the sunshine and we create the hurricanes.

We are always being guided. When we walk into a situation where the energy does not feel good we naturally walk away. This is not because it does not match ours, because it does; it is because we have experienced a sense of our own negative energy and left it behind. It is like walking into a physical manifestation of your own negativity and you did not like it. If we did not like it when we walked into the room then why would we hold it in our hearts? We feel it in different ways, through different urges and cravings, we walk this way, go that way, talk to this person, avoid that person. It all seems like every day life, but what is truly happening is that you are a magnet. My soulful friend Stephen Conner, author of 'The Divine Spirit' and who also appears in this book, calls it your 'inner magnet', which is extremely accurate. That magnet attracts only to its counterpart and so we are naturally weaving in and out of different energies and frequencies depending on what frequency we are on.  Therefore, happiness attracts happiness and sadness attracts sadness without fail. Our energy is always changing too. We tend to bob up and down on this universal current. Sometimes we stay aligned to it for a while, whilst other times we seem to dip in and out of it. This is why some days can feel like we are neither here nor there.

We also see this in the people we run into. We run into friends who make us laugh, we cross paths with those who are helpful, we float by the ones who are smiling. This is when we know we are vibrating at a high frequency. It is when we run into people that displease us, we cross paths with those who are impatient, we float by the ones who are frowning: that is when we know that we need to check back in with ourselves and connect with our inner being once again. The Universe is always right. The sooner we know this the sooner we can use it to our benefit and create abundantly, for we are abundant beings. We can use what is around us to see where we are at and fine tune our vibration to our benefit, or we can ignore it and act like it is wrong and believe that we cannot possibly be feeling that way and continue to struggle through everyday life as we always have. The choice is absolutely ours, but it is important to remind ourselves that the Universe is our friend and it is not showing us things to upset us, offend us, or create something purposely unpleasant. It is only ever matching us up to where we are at that moment in time. There is good in everything; if we know how to look for it. The Universe is never wrong. It never sends people to you to test you, only to teach you. If you are facing someone who is upsetting you then this is your indicator to pick yourself up.

The Universe is always guiding us to the best thought. It is always wanting us to be as aligned with it whenever possible. Every single moment in our lives we are learning something. Even if it is small, or seems small, there is something. We are constantly growing and expanding; there is evidence of it everywhere we look: if we look for it. The more we connect to our inner being the more we see things as the Universe does and so the more we see our power, our worth and our growth.

The Law of Attraction is always at play and we can never shut it down, it will never stop. Whether we can understand it or not; it will continue to be and so I ask you to ponder over its power and use it for its purpose. It is there for us to create a delicious experience.

About the Author

Laura Emily, also known as The Happiness Coach, considers it her mission in life to help uplift the planet and encourage a shift in the consciousness that people have today. Laura currently does one-to-one coaching through her website, http://www.beagoodsoul.com, to help others achieve their goals, fulfill their dreams and awaken their connection to the Universe.